Mar 21, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) reacts to a call being reversed during the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Amway Center.
Where to now?
With trade talks between the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets breaking down Wednesday, it looks like Dwight Howard won't reach his preferred destination. The Nets re-signed Brook Lopez (right) and can't trade him until Jan. 15. That means our national Dwight-mare continues with no end in sight. Let's look at all the teams involved in this saga and where Howard might go from here.
It's the only team he has played for in his NBA career, but Dwight Howard seems to be fed up with the Orlando Magic. And the sentiment seems to be mutual as the Magic search for an acceptable deal to rid themselves of their disgruntled superstar. Howard's on-again, off-again attitude toward the Magic City might have forced out former Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith. But as Orlando continues to explore myriad of offers, one thing seems to be clear: This saga can't end soon enough for either party.
Houston began accumulating picks days before this year's draft in the hopes of sending a package of picks and young players to Orlando for Howard. But as of late the Rockets were reportedly part of the Lakers' three-team offers to Orlando. Houston would land Andrew Bynum and some of the bloated contracts Orlando wants to unload if the Magic agree to the deal. But if Howard plays this season without signing a long-term deal, the Rockets might make a run at signing him as a free agent next summer.
Could Howard's hometown team swoop in and stun the NBA prognosticators? The Hawks have the cap space to take on a max deal for Howard, while also offering Superman the chance to play alongside his good friend Josh Smith. But Atlanta reportedly doesn't have the pieces to pique Orlando's interest. Rumor has it that if the Hawks land Howard and keep Smith, they might have a chance to sign Chris Paul, who would be a free agent next summer, forming their own Big 3.
Mark Cuban began planning for this free-agency period months after the Mavericks won the 2011 title. Dallas opted not to sign key members of its championship team, clearing cap space in the hopes of wooing Dallas native Deron Williams and Howard. Not only have the Mavs failed to net this summer's two biggest names, but Dallas has lost backcourt staples Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. All Cuban can do now is hope Howard doesn't sign a long-term deal, giving Dallas a chance to sell Howard on the idea of teaming up with Dirk Nowitzki next summer.
Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard could follow the Magic's original Superman -- Shaquille O'Neal -- and bolt Orlando for La La Land. The Lakers were reluctant to include center Andrew Bynum before the beginning of last season but now seem to be open to the idea. The wrinkle? Howard reportedly will not sign a long-term deal with the Lakers, and Bynum has not indicated he would commit to Orlando. But with the Nets out of the running until January, and the Lakers recently adding pass-first point guard Steve Nash, Los Angeles might be the favorite to land the All-Star center.
The biggest player during this free-agency period, the newly christened Brooklyn Nets have gone from laughingstock to legit in a matter of weeks. But despite re-signing star point guard Deron Williams and trading for former Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson, the Nets' ultimate goal is landing Howard, who reportedly will sign a long-term deal only with the Nets. Brooklyn has offered a number of packages for Howard -- some three- or even four-team proposals -- but the Magic have not budged. The centerpiece of the Nets' offers (big man Brook Lopez) signed a four-year, $61 million deal, putting the kibosh on any sign-and-trade deal for Howard until Jan. 15 because of the new collective bargaining agreement.
Is there a dark horse looming out there? With speculation running rampant, there's always a chance a team like Oklahoma City could offer James Harden and Serge Ibaka, whose salaries would allow the deal to go through, for Howard. But as free agents continue to sign deals and teams run out of cap space, Orlando's ability to trade Howard before the start of the season dwindles. Where ever Howard eventually lands, it's been a wild ride.